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Airline bookings to Latin America fall after warning on Zika

Before the warning, bookings were up 4.9 percent during December and early January to the same destinations from a year ago

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Airline bookings to parts of Latin America and the Caribbean have slipped globally since a U.S. public health agency warned pregnant women against travel to areas where the Zika virus is spreading, travel data analysis company ForwardKeys said on Friday.

Bookings to regions hit by the mosquito-borne virus fell some 3.4 percent from a year ago between Jan. 15, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory, and Feb. 10, the report found.

Before the warning, bookings were up 4.9 percent during December and early January to the same destinations from a year ago, according to the report.

A move by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Feb. 1 to call the Zika outbreak an international emergency appeared to accelerate the slide, with bookings plunging 10 percent between the WHO announcement and Feb. 10, the report found.

The study, which analyzed around 14 million daily reservation transactions, provides early evidence of Zika’s potentially broad impact on travel demand to certain Latin American countries.

Scientists are investigating a potential link between Zika infections of pregnant women and more than 4,000 suspected cases in Brazil of microcephaly, a condition marked by abnormally small head size that can result in developmental problems.

United Continental Holdings Inc. declined to share information on its bookings. Other airlines with many flights to the region - American Airlines Group Inc, JetBlue Airways Corp, Delta Air Lines Inc. and Latam Airlines Group SA - did not immediately return requests for comment.